This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Sunday 31 March 2013

Renewing the Church's relationship with men

How can the Pope renew the Catholic Church's relationship with men?
by Catherine Lefftie. This is a shortened version of a New Statesman article.

Catherine Lefftie

Catherine Lefftie - the thinking man's old boiler.

What do you call a man who has become the leader of 600 million men?

Pope Francis.

The vast institution he now leads is the oldest in the western world; its relationship to men characterised by paradox. Go into any Catholic church and you will see far more women than men. Accordingly, Pope Francis urgently needs to take steps to make the Church more attractive to those who have XZ chromosomes (Ed., please check this, I'm not very good at science. CL.)


Men do the dull jobs in church, such as arranging the flowers...

Stoking the boiler

... while women have fun stoking the boiler.

It was not always thus. Although the most important non-divine person in the Catholic church is the Virgin Mary, men have also played their part in its history. For example, the first person to see the Risen Christ was a man, Melvie Braggdalene, who went to the tomb to interview Him before the women got there.

Melvyn Bragg

Melvie Braggdalene poses at the site of Christ's tomb.

Of course, other men have not had such a good press. For example, arch-villain Judas Iscariot is widely accepted to have been male, and a very poor role-model for modern men.


Another poor role-model.

What Pope Francis needs to do, and I know he bases many of his decisions on New Statesman articles by bitter old lefties, is to make the Church more friendly to men. For example, the Church encourages the blessings of motherhood, and these tend to be enjoyed far more by women than men.


A woman enjoying her blessings.

Religious life is skewed in favour of women. For instance, men are expected to worry about what clothes they wear in church, and to make fashion statements, whereas women are allowed to dress simply and plainly.


The height of fashion.

Of course the priest plays a fairly important part in the life of the Church, but it is well known that every priest must listen to the voices of an army of women telling him what to do. It is no coincidence that the most influential person in British Catholic life is a woman, Catherine Pepinster.

Father Brown

A priest receives his holy orders.

I have devised a ten-point plan (which I have modestly called the "Ten New Commandments") by which Pope Francis can renew the Catholic church's relationship with men. My vision is a stirring one, but time will tell whether it will be realised under Pope Francis's pontificate.

Is this interview with God genuine?

The following interview, allegedly with God the Father, appeared on the Diocese of Salford website. According to the Press Officer, Fr John Flynn, "I am sure it is real."

On reflection I think the interview has to be fake, but I am reproducing it on my blog just in case it is a genuine scoop.

God the creator

Our distinguished guest, creating life.

JOURNALIST: Welcome, God. Er, how should I address You?

GOD: Oh, don't stand on ceremony. Abba, Father, Lord, Sir, Boss - any of those will do. Even "Lord Sugar."

J: Can I assume that You are speaking as God the Father right now?

G: Yes, the doctrine of the Trinity is a little complex, but take it that I'm also speaking as God the Son to Johann Hari at the Independent, and Ruth Gledhill at the Times has booked me as God the Holy Spirit.

J: How do you see Your job? Is it a job for life, or do You think You may retire some time?

G: Oh, definitely for life, which means for ever in My case. After all, who could replace me?

J: Richard Dawkins, maybe?

Two fossils

Richard Dawkins cuddles another fossil for comfort.

G: Oh, poor Richard thinks he's God, but he's not got much of a clue. We converse regularly - well, I speak, and he sticks his fingers in his ears.

J: Tell us what you think of the new Pope, Sir.

G: Oh, a good man, I'm sure. A little different from Pope Benedict, of course. Perhaps it's a shame that he bundled up all his ceremonial robes and sent them to a charity shop.


You too can wear a fanon - modelled here by Pope Paul VI.

J: Many of our readers will be asking whether you are a "Traddie" or a "Liberal," Lord.

G: Ha ha ha, good question. Just think of me as being very orthodox. Can't abide those fools at the Tablet, though.

J: Oh, You read the Tablet?

G: Yes, I skim through it - when you're basically omniscient it's best to keep up with the enemy. Here's an example: TINA BEATTIE CALLS ON VATICAN TO SURRENDER. No, no, she's lost it.

J: These days, the Church seems to spend a lot of time arguing about abortion, same-sex marriage, and so forth. Any comments?

G: Oh get real. I made My views clear on those issues, centuries ago. By now everyone should have understood the basic moral principles of Christianity, and got on to more serious things like loving their neighbour.

Love your neighbour, François Hollande style. Les plods gassing les enfants de la patrie.

J: What do you think of the other burning issue of the day: the decision of the Telegraph to charge for its content?

G: Apparently, they have to pay for Geoffrey Lean to jet off to more conferences on global warming, and the airlines are threatening to charge double the price for fat people. I see their dilemma.

J: Will You pay the £1.99, O Lord?

G: No, for obvious reasons I won't need to do that. Besides, I really only read it for the cartoon and some of the blogs.

J: Do You listen to the radio?

G: Yes, I simply adore Thought for the Day. St Peter and I play this game in which we listen to Giles Fraser and count the number of theological errors, inadvertent blasphemies, and examples of sheer foolishness that he makes. I've seen St Peter rolling on the floor, laughing at some of Giles's blunders.

Giles Fraser

Giles Fraser has fans in very high places indeed.

J: One final question, Sir. Vatican II - what did you make of it?

G: Oh, it had some good points, but then some of what happened afterwards was simply hilarious. All that stuff about priests standing with their backs to Me, so that I couldn't see what they were up to. Totally clueless. And the hymns they make Me listen to these days - I do wonder why Paul Inwood and his friends hate me so much.

J: God the Father, thank You very much.

G: PAX VOBISCUM, and I'll be seeing you again in - oh, about 38 years from now.

J: Oh, er, right.

God help me pass

Not-very-relevant photo.

Sunday 24 March 2013

New Pope criticised on all sides

Jerusalem, AD 33. Pope Peter, the new occupant of the Chair of St Peter, has been severely criticised both by traditional and liberal commentators following his taking office two weeks ago.

Pope Peter

Pope Peter - a new era for the church?

Since the departure of Jesus, last seen mysteriously disappearing into a cloud, Pope Peter is now the leader of several hundred Catholics worldwide, all of whom are waiting to see in which direction he will take the Church.

Traditionalist bloggers, led by Roar at Galilee, have already criticised Pope Peter on the following grounds:

1. He has abandoned the tradition of walking on water, probably because he is not very good at it.

2. He seems unwilling to celebrate Masses in Latin, preferring a modernist Aramaic service.

3. Following a rather sordid incident involving a cock crowing, Pope Peter has been accused of complicity with the repressive Pontius Pilate junta.


4. So far Peter has refused to wear the traditional halo.

Roar at Galilee has called for a return to the age of miracles, saying that what Pope Peter needs is a little more Spirit. With Pentecost rapidly approaching, it will be interesting to see whether the new pope can satisfy such critics.

Meanwhile, liberal Catholics are equally disappointed. The Tablistines People's Front (Pepinster, Curti, Beattie, Stourton, ...) has observed with dismay that the new Pope is showing himself distinctly reluctant to embrace abortion, euthanasia, same-sex relationships or women apostles. "I feel let down - I only joined the Catholic church for way-out sex and violence," complained one Tablistine.

Ed Stourton and a baboon

Ed Stourton, who has complained that a baboon keeps peering through his window.

At this stage the general feeling is one of disappointment. It is clear that Peter will not be able to match the record of his illustrious predecessor: nonetheless, some have said that dropping the "King of Kings" role and presenting the Pope as a simple fisherman may be just what is needed to increase the popularity of the Church.

Fish and chips

Simple fish and chips - a dish fit for a modern 1st century Pope.

Religious news items

The third Pope?

To everyone's disappointment, it seems that the "third Pope" in the picture published by the Sun newspaper is not, after all, Pope Francis.

Three popes?

Clearly the picture shows Pope John-Paul II and a future Pope Benedict XVI, but the very spiritual-looking cardinal in the middle has so far been unidentified. It is thought that he may be even have been a Telegraph journalist who gatecrashed the meeting in disguise.

Pope Francis likes gerunds.


The gerund - shunned by Pope Benedict XVI.

Meanwhile, Latin scholars are ecstatic because the motto of Pope Francis, Miserando atque Eligendo, contains no less than two gerunds (verbal nouns). This is in strict contrast to the mottoes of Popes Benedict XVI (Cooperatores veritatis) and John-Paul II (Totus Tuus), who restricted themselves to elementary grammatical constructions.

Our detailed researches (5 minutes with Wikipedia) reveal that there have been no papal gerunds since mottoes were introduced by Pope Pius X, although Pope Benedict XV was widely praised for using a passive subjunctive verb in his In Te Domine Speravi, Non Confondar In Aeternum.

So far it is too early to tell whether Pope Francis is intending to make gerunds a regular feature of his future encyclicals, but Vatican-watchers are hastily buying up all copies of Kennedy's classic text, just in case.

Shortbread-eating primer

Kennedy's classic text (two editions are available).

Meanwhile, over the the Church of England...

Knock knock!

Knock knock! Who's there? I'm Justin. I know you're just in, but who are you?

This week also saw Justin Welby's enthronement as Archbishop of Canterbury. Although he could not expect leading religious figures such as Robert Mugabe or Joe Biden to attend, since their place was in Rome, Archbishop Welby also enjoyed a most impressive service.

Pope Francis and Joe Biden

Ha ha ha, no, we're still against abortion and same-sex marriage, Mr Biden.

In his homily, Archbishop Welby was careful to avoid all controversial topics such as religion, good and evil, etc., instead focussing on some of the other riches associated with the Church of England.

Little Sisters of the National Health Service

Liturgical dancing from the Little Sisters of the National Health Service.

Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth, as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, naturally had an important role to play in the service, as she parachuted down to Canterbury Cathedral.

Queen arriving at Canterbury

"At least Rowan Williams allowed me to arrive by car."

I gets a Lobster award

Dis probabbly aint as spiritaully nuorishin as my usual posts, but Bruvver Ben Trovato has given me a lobster award, wot is sposed to help poeple wiv bloggs wot noboddy reads. Thanks, Ben.


A lobster.

O.K. Let's follow de instructoins.

1. Post the Liebster award graphic on your site.

Liebster award

2. Thank the blogger who nominated the blog for a Liebster Award and link back to their blog. Done that.

3. The blogger then writes 11 facts about himself or herself so people who discover his or her blog through the Liebster post will learn more about him or her.

(i) I is probabbly a saved pusson.
(ii) Bosco is my big bruvver, but he's a little crazy.
(iii) Anti Moly is my grate-ant from Austriala, and is very crazy.
(iv) I lives in Notting Hell.
(v) I writes a spiritaully nuorishin blogg, but poeple 
keeps findin jokes in it.
(vi) All my jokes is stolen.
(vii) I has got a secret crush on Tina Beattie.
(viii) I changes my socks once a month, whether I needs to or not.
Eccles's socks

De socks of a saved pusson.

(ix) My Latin aint bad, but my English sometimes has sutble erorrs.
(x) I has got a secretary called Ecclesiam wot corrects my 
spellin sometimes.
(xi) Richard Dakwins asked me to be his spiritaul director.
4. In addition to posting 11 fun facts about themselves, nominated bloggers should also answer the 11 questions from the post of the person who nominated them.
(i) What inspired the title of your blog? 
Being told by Bosco dat he was a saved pusson.
(ii) Why should people read your blog? 
Spiritaul nuorishment.
(iii) What is your personal favourite post on your blog? 
Of recent ones, I've got a little list aint bad.
(iv) What has been the most popular (most viewed) post on your blog? 
Not sure why, but Zany New BBC Comedies has had about 4,500 hits.
(v) Which post on your blog has attracted most comments? 
I don't get many comments, but Rent-a-troll has got 51 so far.
(vi) What other hobbies or interests (beyond blogging) are you 
prepared to admit to?
Being saved, taking baths, eating pizzas.
(vii) What are your hopes for the new pontificate? 
Dat's too profuond for me.
(viii) Where is your favourite place of pilgrimage, and why? 
St Pancras statoin, cos I likes it.
St Pancras

A sacred place.

(ix) Who is your favourite spiritual author, and why? 
Damain Thopmson, cos he knows all about custard.
(x) Which of these questions did you find it most difficult 
to answer? 
Number (iii) cos on second thuoghts I prefers anuvver one.
(xi) Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the 
Communist Party? 
Nope, but I once voted for de loonies.
5. The nominated blogger will in turn, nominate 9 other blogs with 200 or less followers for a Liebster award by posting a comment on their blog and linking back to the Liebster post. Well, some has probbably been done alreddy, and some may have more than 200, but how about:
Costing not less than everything, 
All along the watchtower, 
Brother Lapin's pilgrimage,
Sky-fairy myth believing cretins,
The path less taken,
Whistling sentinel,
Bara Brith,
One more to be chosen (currently Sede vacante).
6. The nominated blogger will create 11 questions for his or her nominated blogs to answer in their Liebster post.

(i) Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
(ii) How many roads must a man walk down?
(iii) How long is a piece of string? 
(iv) Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? 
(v) Why did the chicken cross the road? 
(vi) Who is the fairest of them all? 
(vii) What shall we do with the drunken sailor? 
drunken sailor

A difficult question to answer.

(viii) To be or not to be? 
(ix) How much wood would a wood-chuck chuck if a wood-chuck 
could chuck wood?
(x) Where did you get that hat?
(xi) What's in a name?

Sunday 17 March 2013

Pope Francis

papal vestments

Pope Francis is delighted with his new vestments.

Thanks to my close sources in the Vatican (© Damian Thompson) I can exclusively reveal that the college of cardinals has elected a new pope, Cardinal Belgrano of Argentina, who has taken the title Pope Francis.

Holy Smoke

Purple smoke from the Sistine Chapel: "we have elected a chemist."

Pope Francis trained as a chemist before entering the Church, and even now he is fond of making "holy smoke."

Pope Francis and Hans Küng

A young Fr Belgrano (R) tries to interest Hans Küng (L) in the delights of chemistry.

Menawhile, Richard Dawkins is very impressed that the new head of the Catholic church is a scientist of greater distinction than he is, and it is said that he is thinking of becoming a Catholic himself.

Dawkins and rosary beads

"Does anyone know how these rosary beads work?"

Little is known about Pope Francis except that he likes riding on buses; it is thought that his first encyclical may be an appeal for universal joy, called Laugh with everyone - or, in Latin, Omnibus Ride.

Popemobile for Pope Francis

The new Popemobile.

No previous Pope has been called "Francis," and it is thought that by this choice of name the Holy Father is sending out signals about the style of papacy he intends. One possibility is that he may have chosen to be named after St Francis Sinatra.

St Francis Sinatra

I did it my way.

However, it may be that instead he had St Francis Howerd in mind.

St Francis Howerd

Titter ye not!

Meanwhile, the BBC is trying to get to grips with the idea of a new Pope, and of course to present him in the worst possible light. When he was first shown to the crowds in St Peter's Square on Wednesday, Pope Francis took the unusual step of praying the "Our Father" and "Hail Mary," prayers unknown to the BBC commentators.

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor and Ed "Stewpot" Stourton discuss the use of obsolete prayers.

As a faithful Tabletista, Ed Stourton explained that "Our Father" and "Hail Mary," are traddy prayers, not suitable for the modern Catholic church. Indeed, as Catherine Pepinster will confirm, they are explicitly against the Spirit of Vatican II.


The Tablet - now preparing a hatchet job on Pope Francis.

Meanwhile, Alan Garbager of the Godruin newspaper was initially wrong-footed by the election of a Pope much more socially aware than the average leftie Godruin-reader. He was also shocked to discover that the new pontiff is an orthodox Catholic and none too keen on abortion, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, or the ordination of women - activities which bring pleasure to so many people. Hence Garbager has been devoting his energies to character assassination. A few years ago he convinced Godruin-readers that Pope Benedict XVI - as a German - was certainly a Nazi war-criminal and a close personal friend of Hitler; moreover, it was claimed that in his spare time he used to pull the wings off insects.


A disciple of Pope Benedict prepares to pull the wings off an insect.

Garbager has now turned his attention to Pope Francis who - as an Argentine - is automatically assumed to have been a war-criminal and close personal friend of General Galtieri; it is said that in his spare time he pulls the ears off woolly lambs.

Argentine troops

Argentine troops, under the direct command of Pope Francis, prepare to invade the Falklands and pull the ears off all the woolly lambs they find.

Well, that's all for now, but do spare a thought for St Malachy, who put his shirt on Cardinal Peter Turkson for Pope and lost everything.

Hello, Eccles!

"Eccles! How nice to see you!"

We interview Cardinal Baloney


Our honoured guest - a man of vision.

Eccles: So, your Eminence, you managed to get to the conclave after all, eh? Would that make you the only Cardinal present who has been officially forbidden from exercising episcopal functions?

Baloney: Yes, I contacted the Guinness Book of Records hoping for the most unsuitable papal elector award, but apparently there was a medieval Cardinal Mandelson of Basingstoke who was even nastier. At least nobody has yet accused me of cannibalism!

E: What do you think history will remember you for? Apart from the brilliant way you covered up the scandals in your diocese?

B: Probably my contribution to our heritage of beautiful cathedrals, Eccles.

ugly warehouse

Si monumentum requiris, circumspice.

E: Quite so. A totally unattractive waste of money. And the cathedral isn't much better. Now tell us about your reactions to the election of Pope Francis.

B: For me, the most encouraging sign was his humility. He has rejected the papal red shoes, you know.

E: Wasn't that because they couldn't find any to fit him at short notice? Apparently, Pope Francis has the largest feet of any pope since St Telesphorus in the 2nd century A.D.

Pope's red shoes

Owing to a confusion between centimetres and metres, the Pope was supplied with red shoes of the wrong size.

B: No, no, Eccles. Rejecting red shoes is a sign of humility, I pray that he keeps the black ones as a sign for us all.

E: Go on, then.

B: O Lord, bless Thy servant Francis (whom Thou wilt have seen on television this week unless Thou wast watching Cormac Relief instead), and grant that his shoes may never turn red. Amen.

E: Apparently he rejected the traditional Mozzarella as well. Now, do you see any other changes, your Eminence?

B: Well, I personally hope that Pope Francis will take a tough line on sexually-offending priests. I mean, we can't just move them to other parishes, as some now-disgraced bishops did in the 1980s. Well we can, but we can't get away with it so easily.

E: Quite so. Anything else?

B: Some wicked people have been criticising me, you know. It really must stop. I am a man incapable of sin: when I go to Confession and the priest asks me what I've done, I say "Nothing!" Think of me as being on the side of the angels.

Roller-skating angels

Roller-skating angels come to Mass to show support for Cardinal Baloney.

E: Cardinal Baloney, thank you very much.

David Starkey - "irredeemably stupid"

David Starkey

David Starkey with Gnasher, his guide dog for the hard of thinking.

Pope Francis has lost no time in reacting to David Starkey's recent intemperate comments about the Catholic church; he took time off from his busy schedule today to point out that Starkey was an "irredeemably stupid" man. Speaking in theological terms, Pope Francis pointed out that Jesus came to redeem sinners, but nowhere is it recorded that He healed the arrogant, the pompous and the very stupid. "Sorry about that, David!" he quipped, before jumping onto a bus.

Thomas Becket

Sir David de Starke-Ravinmad slays Thomas Becket.

David Starkey, who was believed to be out of his mind at the time, had said "I want to declare that Thomas Becket is the patron saint of child abusers." However, Mrs Duffy, a teacher of history and moral philosophy at a local primary school, gently pointed out to him that child abusers did not deserve a patron saint, and that Thomas Becket was never even associated with this crime. However, Starkey replied, "I'll say what I want if it gives me publicity. Poo poo poo!"

Laurie Penny

Laurie Penny (Penny Red) has also criticised Starkey in the past.

Starkey is no stranger to controversy (for example, he has been accused by Laurie Penny of "playing xenophobia and national prejudice for laughs"). In fact what he is really a stranger to is acting like a normal decent and polite adult, rather than the sort of gibbering idiot who comes and sits next to you on a bus. Woeful.

David Starkey

David Starkey, as a young boy, with Gnasher.